- - Sunday, October 2, 2016


Hallel Yaffe Ariel was preparing for bed in her home on a pleasant June evening in Kiryat Arba. It’s likely the 13-year-old girl was still beaming as her parents tucked her into bed having performed a dance recital earlier that day. A few hours after she fell asleep, Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah snuck into her bedroom and stabbed her repeatedly. Hallel died shortly thereafter.

Tarayrah was a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist. After her son’s death his mother declared, “My son died as a martyr defending Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque …” And the little girl? She was an eighth grader like any other, just beginning to find her way in the world when her life was so horrifically ended; one minute her family was applauding her dance performance and less than 24 hours later they were at her burial.

Ariel’s murder is many things — it is shocking, atrocious, heart-wrenching and needless — but sadly it is not an isolated incident.

While I was in Israel this month, there were at least eight security incidents in four days, among the wounded were two Israel Police officers in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City — one of which is still fighting for her life. And at a time when Jewish families prepare to observe their sacred High Holy days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to issue a warning to his fellow citizens to ready themselves for a surge of attacks in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In the past 12 months there have been more than 200 Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis. These include stabbings similar to what the United States just experienced in Minnesota; car-rammings similar to what occurred in Nice; shootings similar to what we witnessed in Orlando and San Bernardino, and bombings similar to what took place in Brussels.

Like any other democracy, Israel must protect its citizens by combatting terror, but the Jewish state refuses to be defined by its daily battle with radical Islamic attacks. Israel is resolutely committed to living up to the highest ideals of Western civilization. And those principles were on full display when Mr. Netanyahu spoke at this past week’s United Nations General Assembly meeting.

During his remarks, Mr. Netanyahu struck an optimistic tone. He spoke of a future in which the evil forces of ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas no longer rain down terror upon the innocent. He highlighted the Jewish state’s contributions to the world, including hi-tech advancements and counterterror strategies. And he stretched out his hands not just to the peace loving nations of Africa and Israel’s allies in the West, but also to the leader of the Palestinian Authority — which allows and perpetuates the very mindset that incited Tarayrah to murder a child while she innocently slept in her home.

This optimism — this yearning for peace, exemplifies the essence of the Israeli worldview.

While often vilified, Israel’s interactions with the Palestinian people and their leadership are a reflection of the best in the human spirit — a spirit I have witnessed firsthand.

When thousands of rockets were indiscriminately fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, the Israeli military did not indiscriminately return fire. Rather, they “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in the combat zones than any other army in the history of warfare.” While rockets from Gaza hit the campus of a hospital near Tel Aviv, Israeli surgeons were operating on the heart of Palestinian child just a few feet away. Where is the moral outcry against this discrimination?

In addition, not even during war does Israel stop aid from reaching the citizens of Gaza. In fact, I witnessed over nearly 800 truckloads carrying food and medical supplies, building materials, fuel and electronics from Israel into Gaza — this unequaled humanitarian deed happens every day except on the Sabbath and holidays.

Though there is a clear and direct link between the Palestinian Authority spreading lies about Israel’s actions on the Temple Mount and the current wave of Palestinian terror, Israel has continued to allow the Islamic Waqf to control this holy spot — sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Since before her modern independence, Israel has tried to seize every opportunity to make peace with her neighbors. Conversely, Israel’s enemies have tried to seize every opportunity to destroy the Jewish state, no matter its concessions. Yet through it all, the Israelis have maintained their moral clarity.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Palestinian leadership. After all, what was their reaction to Ariel’s murder? Was it disgust or dismay? No, like Tarayah’s mother, they hailed the news of her death and lauded her butcher as a martyr.

In many wars, the two combatants can be divided simply between good and evil. This is the case in the war between Israel and Palestinian militants. And when a democracy fights terrorists, when a young girl is slaughtered in her bed, we who believe in good and evil have a responsibility to speak up for the good — for in the end, good will prevail.

Pastor John Hagee is the founder and National Chairman of Christians United for Israel.

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